Education Letter to the Editor

Data-Oriented District Draws Reader Question

October 13, 2009 1 min read

To the Editor:

As a scholar who has studied and written about the influence of the business community and business practices on school reform during the last century, I found myself having a déjà vu moment as I read about the selection of Fulton County, Ga., as a “best practice” district for its data-oriented outlook (“In Fulton County, Ga., Use of Data at Center of Efforts to Improve,” Sept. 23, 2009).

The district’s dedication to the principle of data collection and analysis has earned it the seal of approval from the American Productivity and Quality Center, or APQC, as well as a consortium promoting data-driven decisionmaking. This recognition indicates that Fulton County is operating in compliance with the principles and practices of total quality management, the business-management model adopted by our nation’s pre-eminent corporations and firms in the 1980s.

Throughout the article, there were quotes from a school board member, central-office administrators, an APQC project manager, and a retired IBM consultant, all lauding the district’s commitment to data. But there was not a single comment from teachers, parents, or students—the hoped-for users and beneficiaries of this approach to educational improvement. One could only wonder what those “on the ground” make of the district’s initiative.

This reader would enjoy hearing from those intimately involved in teaching and learning, about how the district’s focus on data-driven decisionmaking is affecting the daily lives and work of teachers and students. Some metrics indicating whether this approach is having a positive influence on the educational experience of the district’s 88,000 students would also be of great interest.

Denise Gelberg

Ithaca, N.Y.

A version of this article appeared in the October 14, 2009 edition of Education Week as Data-Oriented District Draws Reader Question